As of November 23rd, the situation in the Lugansk People’s Republic remains tense and uncertain. However, the developments in Lugansk have by no means been only negative. Moreover, if Ukraine has been hoping for a civil war in Lugansk, then it is already facing disappointment.
So what has happened, and what is happening in Lugansk? The Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Donetsk People’s Republic issued an official statement on November 22nd, which reads: “As a result of joint counter-intelligence and anti-sabotage operations with the Ministry of State Security of the Lugansk People’s Republic, key members of a criminal group operating under the control of the third special forces regiment of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, have been arrested.”
Furthermore, according to the DPR statement, Ukrainian intelligence agencies planned to destabilize the political situation in Donbass by murdering LPR security authorities. LPR Interior Minister Igor Korney warned on November 23rd that Kiev could have reasserted control over the republic within two weeks if collusion between the LPR leadership and Ukraine continued. Following a successful discharge of Kornet from interior ministry leadership, the next morning the republic could have been infiltrated and paralyzed by the third special forces regiment of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate. “But we have succeeded [in preventing this],” Kornet said.
As of the evening of November 23rd, the government building in Lugansk remains cordoned off by armed men, i.e., officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the LPR and the Ministry of State Security of the DPR. Thus, the security agencies of the neighboring Donetsk People’s Republic have rapidly come to the aid of Lugansk in preventing a pro-Ukrainian conspiracy in the highest echelons of power in the LPR.
Back on November 22nd, unidentified men in military uniform occupied the Prosecutor’s Office of the LPR, and Prosecutor General Vitaly Podobry and military prosecutor Sergey Razno were arrested. Earlier, the leadership of the LPR prosecutor were accused by Kornet of working for Ukrainian intelligence. Indeed, we know that this state agency had hired employees of Ukraine’s prosecutor, and Prosecutor General Zaur Ismailov resigned just a month ago, which was gladly welcomed by the public. The Prosecutor’s Office thus has a reputation of pro-Ukrainian and corrupt elements.
But first and foremost, many questions remain concerning the head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky. My sources in the DPR suggested that Plotnitsky had tried to escape to Russia, but was not allowed out of Lugansk. Today a special correspondent of the Russian liberal Novaia Gazeta reported that Plotnitsky had left the republic along with his administration head, Irina Teytsman, the head of the State Television and Radio Company, Anastasia Shurkaeva, and others. My sources in the LPR have not confirmed this information. However, literally while preparing this material, a friend in Moscow close to LPR politics and Plotnitsky personally said that Plotnitsky is most likely in Russia.
If this information is confirmed (and it most likely will be), then a group of whom I would call patriotic security officials has won the power struggle in Lugansk with the help of the DPR. My colleagues in the LPR, Russia, and myself perceive the news of the last few days positively. A powerful and pervasive group of Ukrainian agents of influence in the higher, and possibly also mid-rung power structures of the republic, has been liquidated, and these people were more or less huddled around LPR head Plotnitsky. The very presence of this group makes the republic a weak link in the defense of Donbass from Nazi Ukraine.
I think that Igor Kornet is right in his assessment of the danger of a pro-Ukrainian coup. The LPR very well could have been taken from within thanks to betrayal, corruption, and an extensive network of enemy agents in the highest organs of power in the republic, including the Prosecutor’s Office.
The second reason for cautious optimism is that the republic now finally has the opportunity to begin restoring its industrial potential. Compared to the active development of industrial construction and reconstruction in the neighboring DPR, the stalled factories in the LPR give an onerous impression. The new change in leadership will present an opportunity to rebuild the LPR economy now free of the considerable setbacks posed by corruption and networks of agents. I propose to return to this topic in the future.
At the present moment, I see three likely scenarios: (1) some kind of compromise between Kornet and Plotnitsky, but with the transfer of power over key bodies to the patriotic security bloc; (2) early elections; (3) the establishment of a federation or confederation of the DPR and LPR involving Donetsk forces to resolve Lugansk’s problems.
The first scenario is justifiable due to the fact that Plotnitsky was elected by the popular vote. Although he has lost much of the people’s trust, he remains the legitimate head of the LPR and, in the very least, no evidence has been presented that he was personally part of the pro-Ukrainian conspiracy. Plus, of course, his role is very important insofar as he was the one that signed the Minsk Agreements on behalf of the Lugansk People’s Republic. Unfortunately, this most positive compromise scenario is becoming less feasible due to the political confrontation which Plotnitsky has hedged his bets on. Nevertheless, there is still a small chance for an alliance to be formed between Kornet and Plotnitsky for the sake of peace and security in the republic.
The second scenario is in line with the LPR Constitution, according to which special elections should be held within three months of the resignation of the head of the republic. For now, the functions of acting head of state belong to the Prime Minister. This scenario is also optimal, but it could be used by Ukraine to discredit the people’s republics of Donbass, as Kiev is already taking advantage of the uncertainty in Lugansk in the information war against Donbass.
Finally, the third scenario, or the creation of a federation or confederation of the DPR and LPR under the de facto leadership of economically and demographically more powerful Donetsk, cannot be ruled out. Voices proposing that the republics unite have already been heard, including from within the LPR itself. Although the DPR leadership can also be subject to serious criticism, it is incomparably better than that of the LPR. Plus, DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko boasts popularity and authority in both republics and in both military and civilian circles.
I will deliberately refrain from expressing my personal position on which of these scenarios is most positive. I will say, however, that all three of them are possible, and Fort Russ will continue to monitor the situation.
Originally published on fort-russ.com